In this article we explain the cause of action for paternity fraud in Illinois.
A reader asked the following question on the topic:
Question: Let’s say we have a voice memo/recording of the of the mother and her friends saying that the father that signed the birth certificate is really not the father and that her current boyfriend is the father. If we get a paternity test and it turns out that the father that’s on the birth certificate is really not the father and he wants nothing to do with the child after finding that out. Are there any legal charges that we can file against the mother for her knowing that he really wasn’t the father?
Your remedy in this situation would be to file suit for paternity fraud.
Paternity fraud occurs when a mother leads a man to believe that he is the biological father of her child when she knows either that he is not the biological father or that he may not be the biological father. Illinois is one of a handful of states that recognize paternity fraud as a civil cause of action.
Illinois courts recognize causes of action for paternity fraud on the same basis of any other type of common law fraud. The elements of common law fraud in Illinois are as follows:
The fraudulent act can be an actual false statement, or a failure to tell the plaintiff the truth if such omission was intentional and for the purpose of concealing the truth.
A mother commits paternity fraud when she says something or fails to say something with the intention of creating a belief of fatherhood in someone who she knows is not the biological father or has reason to believe is not the biological father.
So if you file suit for paternity fraud, what types of damages can you seek to recover? Because paternity fraud is simply a variation of common law fraud, the same principles with respect to damages apply. When you sue for common law fraud, you can recover compensatory damages. Compensatory damages seek to make the plaintiff financially whole for any loss suffered as a result of the defendant’s fraudulent action.
In the context of paternity fraud, the plaintiff can generally expect to recover any child support previously paid to the mother. Theoretically, other damages that the defendant suffered as a result of the false belief of fatherhood may be recoverable as well. However, damages other than child support are not likely to be granted by the court. Plaintiffs in paternity fraud cases are not entitled to recover attorney fees or court costs.
In addition, if the mother commits paternity fraud, the deadline for revoking a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity is tolled until such time as the victim discovers or should have reasonably discovered that he is not in fact the father.
To learn more, check out our article: Illinois Paternity Law Explained.